Editor’s note: The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee has been taken over by the moderate/conservative side, represented by the chair, Mary Jung, who is a real-estate lobbyist. (Yes: While our elected Democrats in Sacramento are fighting for tenant protections, the chair of the local party is lobbying for landlords.) A move this week to make Jung account for how she spent a big chunk of tech-mogul money turned into quite a scene that may not bode so well for the local party. Critics were raising real issues about Jung’s political connections and spending. Her allies turned it into something entirely different. Here’s our correspondent’s report.
By Kevin Bard
JUNE 27, 2014 — If you have never attended a meeting of your local party’s County Central Committee, don’t flagellate yourself over it. They are often dull affairs.
But July 25th’s monthly meeting of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee turned into a bizarre pep rally.
You see, its chairwoman, Mary Jung, the director of government and community relations for the SF Realtors Association, accepted a last-minute $25,000 donation from Ron Conway, a titan of wealth who is no shrinking violent when it comes to power-projecting onto local politics. This money was meant to encourage folks to vote against Prop. B, the endorsed position of the SF DCCC, via “membership communications calls” from Texas. There was even an ethics charge claiming that the calls mislead voters into thinking that No Wall on the Waterfront wanted them to vote no.
With strategic planning like this, no wonder Prop. B passed by 59 percent a couple of weeks ago.
The main problem lies with the expenditure itself. DCCC member Kelly Dwyer raised ethical questions prior to the June 3rd election, resulting in a letter signed by five other members (Supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos, and David Campos, along with members Petra DeJesus and Hene Kelly) questioning Jung’s actions.
Before the June 25 meeting, there was some sense in the air that Mary Jung would be forced to resign from the committee, step down as chair, get censured, or at least be encouraged not to run for re-election in two years. I got plenty of emails from the No Wall on the Waterfront team encouraging me to come and testify about Chairwoman Jung’s clear conflict of interest and bylaw violations. (Generally, political boards vote on how to spend sizable amounts of money like this.)
But once I got there, it was the exact opposite.
First of all, Mary Jung’s team had a table outside the door. With food! And orange ribbons to show your support, as if she were a missing soldier or something. (DCCC member Zoe Dunning wore one; a lot of them did, actually.)
When they opened up the meeting to public comment, the gushing that ensued was astonishing. We were hammered by Mary Jung’s many, many virtues, her leadership skills, hard-working, can-do attitude, and undying support from a handful of local Democratic Club leaders, real estate experts, and your garden-variety opportunists. Thankfully, much of what the pro-Jung folks said about the chairwoman’s warm personality had a ring of truth to it, but it wasn’t at all germane to the ethical questions at hand.
Don’t you love appeal-to-emotion fallacies in politics?
After the hour-and-a-half or so of public comment was over, Jung spoke in her own defense, claiming that this type of expenditure had been done before and inviting her adversaries to “bring it.” Jung actually stuck to the question at hand most of the time and made more sense than most of her supporters.
Hene Kelly and Kelly Dwyer were clearly on the defensive, as you generally are when you challenge the winner of a popularity contest. DCCC member David Chiu even asked for a straw poll (loyalty oath, really – the third or fourth one of the night) to see if there were enough votes to remove Mary Jung and then to see if there were enough votes to keep her. DeJesus questioned the rules of such a maneuver. But the point was moot.
In light of my friend Joel Engardio’s recent column, San Francisco moderates (is it okay to call them conservatives now?) are clearly going to campaign on a false martyrdom narrative. With their influence, money, real estate, seemingly-happy children, access to the most expensive meals around, and near-automatic employability, SF’s economically conservative politicos are clearly the victims of rabid progressive witch. Let’s see if this Republican-esque playbook works out in November and beyond.
As for the handful of speakers in support of the letter opposing Chairwoman Jung’s actions, I remember David Waggoner (who almost ran for supervisor against Scott Wiener) getting the most applause, Wendy Aragon (now a candidate for Community College Board) being brave (a possible DCCC endorsement is on the line), Patrick Connors being clever, and of course myself, being brief, sassy, and philosophical.
I reluctantly spoke at the last minute on the need of the DCCC to help many of its smaller chartered clubs centralize when and where they endorse candidates for office. It would be a great relief to Democrats running for office to not run as fast or in as many directions – take it from me. And in all honesty, if Ron Conway can throw down for some shitty calls from Texas, why can’t he throw down for this?
How much carry over will this meeting have for Jung, the moderates and progressives, the upcoming DCCC endorsements (or value thereof), and big money in local politics? I guess that depends on how memorable pep rallies actually are. Do you remember the last one you attended?